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Quick Smoke: H. Upmann Ingot The Banker Private Holding

23 Jul 2016

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

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This limited edition from Altadis is a standout, far from the stereotype of cigars from an industry’s giant. It’s rich, complex, and nicely balanced with a Criollo ’98 wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and filler. Issued in a single size (6 x 54) with 4,500 eight-count boxes shaped like gold bars, the single-stick MSRP is $9.25. I did experience some minor meandering burn issues and a flaky ash, but the spicy, sweet, and shifting flavors more than made up for it.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Cornelius & Anthony Daddy Mac Gordo

18 Jul 2016

Daddy MacFor its latest release, Cornelius & Anthony has turned up the heat.

Daddy Mac, named for founder Steven Bailey’s father, is a three-country blend produced at Erik Espinosa’s La Zona factory in Nicaragua.

It makes a nice first impression, with a barnyard aroma on the pre-light wrapper, which is an oily Brazilian Habano. The binder is Ecuadorian and the filler tobaccos are from Nicaragua.

The cigar starts with a pleasing burst of pepper. Then, about an inch in, it begins to mix with wood, leather, and sweetness. While the pepper never backs completely away, it stays in the background until about the final third, when it amps up again.

The Brazilian wrapper seems to add a little something extra to the Nicaraguan tobacco.

The Daddy Mac is decidedly stronger than the Cornelius line I smoked previously. I’d rank the Daddy Mac as a full-strength, full-flavor blend.

Daddy Mac comes in four sizes: Corona Gorda (5.5 x 46, $8.50), Robusto (5 x 52, $9), Toro (6 x 50, $10), and Gordo (6 x 60, $11). Cornelius & Anthony supplied me with two samples of each vitola, and I smoked them all.

Each one performed excellently, with draw, burn, and smoke production first-rate. According to Courtney Smith, Cornelius & Anthony’s director of brand development, the four sizes were blended to have the “same/similar profile,” though she added that ring gauges do account for some differences.

I was surprised to find my favorite was the massive Gordo, a larger cigar than I usually smoke. While I enjoyed all four Daddy Mac vitolas, for my taste, the Gordo was smoother and more balanced than the others. The smaller smokes were just a bit sharper, the flavors not quite as rounded.

Cornelius & Anthony seems to be expanding its reach at a pretty good clip, so don’t be surprised if you spot its cigars at your local B&M. When you do, I recommend Daddy Mac. I give the Gordo four stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Espinosa Habano No. 5

17 Jul 2016

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

Espinosa-Habano

Erik Espinosa announced last year that he was tweaking the blend on his eponymous line, as well as redoing the packaging. The result is well worth checking out: a spicy, flavorful cigar that lets the Ecuadorian Habano wrapper shine with the Nicaraguan binder and filler, all at an everyday price (the three sizes run from $6.75 to $7.50). While not overly complex, there are some flavor shifts as the spice intensity rises and falls a bit, while cedar and a burned coffee notes come and go. Construction and draw are excellent.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Espinosa Cigars

Quick Smoke: Warped La Hacienda Gran Robusto

10 Jul 2016

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

This Nicaraguan puro opened with a knife-like spice that gradually dialed back as the cigar’s strength increased. It was a smooth, pleasing smoke priced at about $8. Draw was near perfect, the ash tight, and smoke production thick and full. Burn was OK, though a bit wavy at times. La Hacienda, rolled for Warped by Casa Fernandez using its hallmark Aganorsa leaf, comes in two vitolas: Gran Robusto (5.5 x 52) and Superiores (5.6 x 46).

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: N/A

Quick Smoke: Kristoff GC Signature Series Robusto

9 Jul 2016

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

The oily Brazilian Maduro wrapper on this over-sized Robusto (5.5 x 54) makes a nice first impression. Unfortunately, I didn’t find smoking the cigar as impressive. While there was the typical Maduro coffee and sweetness, the spice too often was harsh, while there was also an off-putting grassy flavor. The GC Signature Series has a varied blend of tobaccos: Nicaraguan, Honduran, and Dominican filler with a Honduran binder. Burn, smoke output, and draw were excellent. Not a bad cigar, just not a particularly memorable one, either.

Verdict = Hold.

George E

photo credit: N/A

Cigar Review: Cornelius & Anthony Cornelius Toro

29 Jun 2016

CorneliusAfter growing tobacco in Virginia since the end of the Civil War, the Bailey family operation has moved into premium cigars.

The inaugural Cornelius cigar has a light brown Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, a binder that’s also from Ecuador, and a Nicaraguan Jalapa filler. The cigars are rolled at El Titan de Bronze in Miami’s Little Havana.

The Toro is a 6-inch, 50-ring gauge stick with a $15 MSRP. Two other vitolas fill out the line: Robusto (5 x 52, $13.50) and Corona Gorda (5.5 x 46, $12). All are sold in boxes of 20. The company’s website is still under construction.

The Cornelius name honors an ancestor of Steven Bailey, who turned the company into a small-brand cigarette juggernaut in the 1990s. That most interesting story was well told by the Los Angeles Times a few years ago.

There’s no doubt Cornelius & Anthony is making a serious move into cigars. The company hired Courtney Smith, a former executive at La Palina. And, as a separate division of the company, Cornelius & Anthony will have its own individual booth at this year’s IPCPR Trade Show. (Smith supplied the samples I smoked for this review.)

The Cornelius makes a fine first impression, with a smooth wrapper that has an almost minty pre-light aroma. When lit, the opening is a classic cigar flavor: tobacco sweetness. That soon includes a bit of spice with some wood and light nutty notes.

While the flavors amp up and down a little along the way, there isn’t a lot of change throughout. The burn is razor-sharp, though the ash is a bit loose. The draw is excellent.

I’d classify the strength as pretty much in the middle of medium. It’s a strength and flavor profile that should appeal to many smokers. The price is reasonable, especially for a cigar of this size that is rolled in the U.S.

If this sounds like a cigar you’d enjoy, give Cornelius a try. I rate it three and a half stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Coping with a Post-FDA Cigar Industry

15 Jun 2016

[Below is a follow-up to a previous commentary on the grim FDA situation facing the cigar industry.]

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s cigar regulations will undoubtedly transform the industry, leading to the potential elimination of most sticks introduced after Feb. 15, 2007.

Obviously, that includes a lot great cigars. It also strikes at the heart of what many consumers enjoy about the pastime: discovering new and different cigars.

What it doesn’t have to mean, though, is an end to cigar smoking pleasure. In the words of Buddhist teacher Tara Brach, “A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.”

And that’s what we face—a major detour. It’ll require a lot of shifts in the way we think about and approach cigars.

For many, cigar smoking has become subject to the common consumer quest for something new. Indeed, “What’s new?” has got to be the most common question asked by customers at a tobacconist.

Scientists know that humans respond to novelty, and that novelty wears off over time. As professor Aimee Huff, who’s studied the issue, wrote: “the perception of newness is an important part of the consumption experience because it creates short-term value.”

Achieving that experience won’t be nearly as easy if all the FDA restrictions take effect as scheduled. That means we’ll have to adjust our approach.

For starters, instead of asking the clerk, “What’s new?” I suggest asking yourself, “What’s new for me?” There are likely to be hundreds of pre-2007 cigars you or I haven’t tried. Sure, maybe we don’t want to try half of them, but that still leaves a lot to check out.

Another approach is to thoroughly examine what it is about certain cigars that you enjoy most and look for others that match or come close. Some of them could be pre-2007 cigars, some may be among those that make it through the vetting process.

Thinking carefully about what you enjoy may also make it easier to find satisfaction with a smaller number of lines.

A return to the days when most cigar smokers stopped by their local shop periodically for the same box of, say, Romeo y Julieta or Montecristo, seems highly improbable, regardless of what happens. But continuing to sample a new release every week or so seems an equally remote possibility.

I, for one, intend to go on smoking and enjoying cigars, regardless of the obstacles. If I have to make an attitude adjustment in order to do it, I’ll make the effort.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys